In 1688 Mary II became Queen of England together with her Dutch husband, William of Orange. One of the major duties of British royalty at the time (and probably still today) was to annoy the French, and William had the bright idea of taking the conflict into the realms of alcohol.
At that time the main liquor drunk in England was French brandy. So, William slapped a large tax on the importation of brandy and recommended as a cheap alternative a duty-free Dutch spirit called Genever. Genever was, of course, gin. And soon Britain was awash with it. The popular slogan of the London gin houses was “Drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence [two pennies].
Soon, the new tipple became known as “Mother’s Ruin.”
Meanwhile, in the far-flung outposts of the British Empire, the only real antidote to the perennial problem of malaria was a bitter-tasting medicine called quinine. Someone discovered that this became far more palatable when mixed with gin and that ubiquitous British drink, the gin and tonic was born, cementing the British love affair with all things based on gin.
Now the Queen herself has launched her own brand: Sandringham Estate Celebration Gin.
This is not the Royal Family’s first venture into the business. A limited-edition Buckingham Palace Gin was launched earlier this year. Prince Charles has also gotten in on the act and marketed an organic gin called Highgrove based on his home farm estate in Highgrove, Cornwall.
However, coinciding as it does with Christmas, and named after the Sandringham estate where the royals traditionally gather for the festive season, Sandringham Gin has caused quite a stir.
The marketing description waxes lyrical: “Distilled locally, our gin includes Sharon fruit, a woody tree related to ebony, also known as the Chinese Persimmon, and foliage from myrtle plants.
“The Sharon fruit is grown in the Walled Garden on a sheltered wall at the end of what was a range of glasshouses, built on the winnings of the famous racehorse, Persimmon, owned by King Edward VII.
“The foliage from myrtle plants also grown on the Estate, originated from a cutting taken from Princess Alexandra’s wedding bouquet on her marriage to Prince Albert Edward, who later became King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra.”
The Queen is known to enjoy a regular tipple. Her favourite drink is said to be gin and Dubonnet with a slice of lemon, or a dry gin martini, presumably drunk before briefing James Bond.
On sale for £50 a bottle you can enjoy a royal cocktail or two this Christmas together with a slice of British history.
Cheers from all of us at Happy Ali!